For the first time in history, a total of 21 shuttlers from India have qualified for the main draw of the World Badminton Championships in Glasgow, that begins on Monday. The stage is set for a must-watch showdown in each of the departments and with such a strong contingent, there will be a load of expectations. The likes of Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu, and B Sai Praneeth, who start as favourites in the singles department, are set to carry India's hopes on their shoulders at the world event.
Last year, PV Sindhu won a much-deserved silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and that was the start of a string of good results for the Indian shuttlers. The 2017 Badminton World Federation's (BWF) calendar year has proved to be magnificent for the Indians so far, winning eight titles in total compared to Japan's six and China's four.
Sameer Verma and Sindhu started the year with a bang following their gold in the 2017 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold tournament. Sindhu further claimed gold in the India Superseries held in the capital city earlier this year. Saina Nehwal, who was marred by injuries after 2016 Rio Olympics, won the Malaysian Masters before Sai Praneeth (Singapore Superseries and Thailand Grand Prix Gold) and Kidambi Srikanth (Indonesia Superseries Premier and Australian Superseries) went on to win back-to-back titles for India.
Notably, the shuttlers have played consistently well at the big events and are no more hesitant to play or feeling tired to fight in the deciding games. One of the reasons why the Indians can now play fearlessly is because of all the hard work put in by new coach Mulyo Handoyo, who joined forces with national coach Pullela Gopichand in 2016. He introduced longer training sessions so that his players are both, physically and mentally prepared.
"There have been a couple of changes in the training programs and that is one of the reasons why we are being able to be more confident on the court with the stroke. Initially, we thought a couple of patterns were not working but when I played in Indonesia, I felt the difference," HS Prannoy told Firstpost after Kidambi's historic win at the Australia Superseries in June.
Following such explosive performances in the BWF events, there stands a decent chance for the Indian shuttlers to win the nation its first gold medal at the World Badminton Championships, an event dominated yet again by the Chinese, who have an unmatchable 61 medals to its name.
Within a space of a few months, India has, out of nowhere, emerged as a serious medal contender in the singles department given the likes of Srikanth, Saina and Sindhu have all been handed relatively easy draws in the lung-opener. Looking at the fitness levels and the stunning form some of the Indian shuttlers are in at the moment, it would also be foolish to rule out at least a gold for India at the prestigious event. Since 2011, India has managed to win a medal in every edition of the World Championships and it would certainly be a huge achievement for Indian badminton to add to the smashing 2017 season they have had so far.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2017 16:19:54 IST